NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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by Dennis Ranahan

Many of us recall this line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, “Who are those guys?”

In the movie, Paul Newman and Robert Redford were referring to the posse tracking them with seemingly uncanny skill. Today, in the National Football League, we could say the same words in reference to the Cincinnati Bengals.

If Marvin Lewis’ team was real estate they would be best known for having no curb appeal. Most consider the Bengals little more than an afterthought in a division dominated by the Pittsburgh Steelers and the more highly thought of Baltimore Ravens. But, did you know, that since the Ravens won the AFC North Division and Super Bowl in 2012, the Steelers have won it three times and the Bengals twice.

The Bengals?

Right.

While Cincinnati has never won a postseason game during Lewis’ 16 year coach tenure, they have advanced to the postseason seven times. In other words, they are a much better team in the regular season than they are in the postseason.

We are currently in the regular season.

This week, Cincinnati is hosting the team that after beating the Los Angeles Rams last Sunday, are now on the top of many lists for best team in the league. Three NFL teams have only one loss, but only the New Orleans Saints are riding a seven game winning streak.

The Saints rise in both the standings and public opinion is easy to understand. Drew Brees, who is popular both on and off the field, is their record setting quarterback and seems to defy any loss in his prowess based on age. The 39-year-old signal caller is as crafty as any player at his position. Able to avoid rushers with subtle moves in the pocket and an arm that can complete passes from multiple angles. Only Tom Brady has comparable skills at reading defenses and best utilizing his weapons.

If the Saints were real estate, they would attract buyers on looks alone.

Which brings us to this Sunday, when the misunderstood Bengals host the Saints following New Orleans’ huge home win over the Rams. Sean Payton’s team has risen to the top of the football charts following a rather suspect start to their season, losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and requiring late heroics to edge the Cleveland Browns. But, since that meager beginning, New Orleans has met and conquered every challenge.

Until now.

The Saints have been the hunter since their opening loss, but last week’s win now puts the bullseye on them by the rest of the league. The Bengals are coming off their bye week following a fourth quarter collapse that saw an 18 point lead at home dissolve into a tie game in the final minute of play. Cincinnati was able to kick a field goal to beat the Buccaneers two weeks ago, but the result did not send them on their midseason break high-fiving each other in the locker room.

Which leaves us with this. A home standing Bengals squad on alert against a New Orleans team now on top of the heap after their shaky start. From a motivational perspective, the whip hand is with the home team in this contest, while the public gravitates to the Saints like a moth to the light bulb on a dark night.

The wagering on the Saints has driven the line up on this game even though it opened at a generous number for the home team. I liked Cincinnati getting four points on Monday, like ‘em more today getting 5½ points and expect by Sunday six will be available.

A good bet with a good line is a good thing.

Qoxhi Picks: Cincinnati Bengals (+5½) over New Orleans Saints